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Whole Roasted Branzino
Whole Roasted Branzino Photo courtesy of Vernick Food & Drink

Roasting a whole fish may seem like an ambitious project for a weeknight dinner, but in fact the preparation promises both ease and impressive results. We’re wild about this whole roasted branzino from Vernick Food & Drink’s Greg Vernick. The Philly chef stuffs the fish with shaved fennel, Espelette pepper and orange zest, then roasts it until the skin is crispy and the stuffing is wilted and tender. Serve it up straight from the skillet with lemon wedges--and plenty of napkins. If you’re like us, you’ll find yourself forgoing utensils and attacking it with your hands. Really.

Makes 2 servings

1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

½ teaspoon Espellete pepper

Zest from 1 orange

One 1½- to 2-pound whole branzino, scaled and gutted

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 475˚. In a large mixing bowl, toss the shaved fennel with the salt, Espellete pepper and orange zest. Set aside.

2. Season the inside of the branzino with salt and stuff it generously with the fennel mixture. Season the exterior of the branzino with salt. Set aside.

3. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the vegetable oil and add the branzino. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the branzino and roast for 10 minutes. Gently flip the branzino and return it to the oven to roast for 10 minutes longer, or until the skin is crispy and the flesh is cooked through.

4. Transfer the branzino to a large plate and drizzle with additional olive oil. (Alternatively, serve the branzino straight from the skillet.) Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

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